“I like you.”
Emma’s jaw dropped. “Excuse me?”
“I like you.”
Emma looked at Rochelle like she was from a different planet.
“AJ was right and I can see why he speaks so highly of you.”
“I’m really confused right now.”
Rochelle laughed. “I can tell. What did you think I was gonna say?”
“I’m not sure.” Emma said after a minute. “I just thought….”
“I want to tell you the truth. Your friend called Nick and told him about how you were feeling.”
Emma groaned. “I’m gonna kill her.”
“Don’t.” Rochelle responded. “I think Nick wishes you had told him yourself but it is what it is. You really have nothing to worry about.”
Emma sat there not knowing what to say.
“I’m sorry that I kind of threw all this stuff at you at once but I wanted to put you at ease. Everyone is gonna love you.”
“But I’m not Lauren.” Emma replied quietly.
“No, you’re not. And no one expects you to be.”
“But you all liked her.”
“I can’t speak for the other ladies but I wasn’t always her biggest fan. I want all the guys to be happy and Nick wasn’t all the time.”
“No one can be happy all the time.”
“You’re right but everyone should be at least half the time.”
“I appreciate you telling me this. I was just scared that all of you would wish I was Lauren.”
“I don’t and I know Kristen won’t. I can’t speak for Leighanne, but I’m not really sure she likes me some of the time!” Rochelle said with a laugh.
Emma giggled and was relieved to shed some of the stress she’d been feeling. Maybe this holiday wouldn’t be so bad.
“So how do you think it’s going in there?” Nick asked as he handed AJ a diaper.
“Would you relax? It’s going just fine.”
“How do you know?”
“Because it’s Ro and Emma. They’re probably the two most easy going women on the planet.” AJ replied with a laugh. “Hell, they’re probably BFFs by now.”
Nick chuckled. “I hope so.”
“You need to chill out Nicky. It’ll all be ok.”
Nick sat down on the bed and watched as AJ finished dressing his daughter. “I just wished she had told me how she was feeling herself instead of letting Addie do it.”
AJ sat down next to him, bouncing Ava on his lap. “First of all, I don’t think she “let” Addie do it. That woman seems pretty strong willed and probably took it upon herself to do it.”
“I still wish she’d told me….”
“Dude, how did you expect her to tell you?”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s the new girl in the group.”
“But so is Addie.”
“Yeah but Howie didn’t just break up with someone he’d been with for four years. He didn’t just introduce that someone he’s dating and living with right after ending a long term relationship.”
“Are you saying I’m using Emma as a rebound?” Nick demanded, getting angry.
“No Nick, I’m not saying that. I don’t think you’d do something like that and I hope I’m not wrong.”
“You’re not; I wouldn’t do that to Emma!”
“Relax Nick; I’m not saying you would. I’m just saying that it puts her in a different boat than Addie.” AJ paused. “I mean put yourself in her shoes. How would you like it if she had four sisters with wives or girlfriends who got used to her boyfriend and now there was someone new? Wouldn’t you feel a little out of place and nervous?”
Nick thought about it for a minute. “I guess you’re right. I think that’d be hard for me.”
AJ grinned. “You’re seeing the light!”
Nick laughed and nodded. “Finally.”
“In all seriousness though,” AJ said and looked at Ava, “isn’t she the most beautiful little girl?”
“Absolutely.” Nick answered. “Thank God she takes after her mother!”
Dinner went smoothly and Emma felt much more at ease by the time AJ and the girls left. Nick walked them out while Emma cleaned up what was left in the kitchen. When she turned around, she found Nick leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed.
“So, how mad are you?” Emma said, lowering her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see his reaction.
“I’m not mad at you.”
Emma looked up and saw Nick’s face. “But you’re upset.”
“No.” Nick replied and walked over to her. “I’m a little hurt that you didn’t tell me but I’m not mad.”
He pulled Emma into a tight embrace and leaned down to kiss her. After returning his kiss, Emma leaned her head against his chest.
“What made you not mad?”
“Yeah, he helped me see it from your point of view.”
“Yup.” Nick chuckled. “AJ was actually the voice of common sense. Go figure.”
Emma laughed and wrapped her arms around Nick’s waist. “I’m glad he was. I’m sorry for not telling you myself; I just didn’t know how to.”
“I know.” Nick said as he pulled back to look in her face. “I just want us to be as honest as we possibly can with each other, even if it hurts or is uncomfortable.”
Emma nodded. “Ok. I promise in the future to be up front about this kind of stuff.”
“Any kind of stuff.”
“Alright, any kind of stuff.”
“Good.” Nick said and grabbed her hand.
“You and I are going to bed.”
Nick leaned down and kissed her gently. “I’ll take care of her. You go get comfortable.”
Emma blushed and watched Nick open the door to the backyard. As she turned away, she realized what an amazing man she was lucky enough to have.